UK struggling to recruit workers

The UK is already struggling to recruit workers and if Brexit makes it harder, investment in the country will also be hit.

New research by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) found a majority of UK businesses are still struggling to recruit workers. In the survey of 7,300 businesses, 74% in manufacturing and 58% in services said they were experiencing “high levels of recruitment difficulties”.

In a statement about the research, BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said “while we’d like to see greater investment in training across the board, without access to a sufficient talent pool, companies are restricted in their ambitions”.

Businesses also continue to report recruitment difficulties, and while we’d like to see greater investment in training across the board, without access to a sufficient talent pool, companies are restricted in their development ambitions.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce

In terms of competitiveness, this suggests that a Brexit where there is reduced immigration would also reduce the competitiveness of UK businesses. It also suggests the UK would be less attractive to investors. So whilst the survey also found that “confidence in turnover and profitability is improving”, it also reported “investment intentions remain low”.

Speaking to the BBC, Suren Thiru, BCC’s head of economics, warned that industries including hospitality and construction are “heavily dependent on EU workers”. And with rising inflation adding pressure to business costs Thiru said “this is deterring business investment, including investing in training their staff”.

Immigration has been a hot topic this week. It was highlighted at the government’s International Fintech conference where the chancellor Philip Hammond said that Britain needed to “continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to these shores”. The Independent reports Hammond as adding that Britain also needed to do better at “nurturing and developing home-grown talent to drive our economy forward in the future”. This is, of course, all well and good but what the BCC survey is warning is that businesses may not have the money to support the “nurturing and developing of home-grown talent”. Not if reduced immigration as a result of Brexit leads to reduced investment and the reduced competitiveness of UK businesses.

Also speaking at the conference, the co-founder of successful fintech company, TransferWise, Taavet Hinrikus warned that Brexit risks the UK’s position as the number one place to start and grow a fintech company. He told the conference “if I was setting up TransferWise today, I probably would not choose London” because of uncertainty over Brexit and the threat it holds over access to talent. As quoted in business news website Quartz, he said “talent is the lifeblood of a growing business”.

Talent is the lifeblood of a growing business. To be a global business you need access to the best talent from around the world

Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of TransferWise

Britain’s need for immigration isn’t just about having a successful economy. The Guardian reports that analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows that immigration is also important to keep Britain’s public services running. And a leaked government document reported by the Independent said that Britain faced a possible shortage of up to 42,000 nurses post-Brexit. According to the Royal College of Nursing, there already is a shortage of nurses with 24,000 vacant positions and fewer nurses registering to be a nurse in the UK.

Image: © Elena Rostunova /
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